Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why I Hate Saturn

Some while back I read and reviewed Kyle Baker's Nat Turner book.  Seeing as I enjoyed that quite a bit I bought a couple more of his books, reaching back in time a bit from the Nat Turner publication.

So, the first of the Baker books I read from this purchase was 1990's Why I Hate Saturn.  This was a very amusing story.  There's the intended amusing of the life of protagonist Anne and the ancillary amusing of how much technology has changed in the last 23 years.  VCRs, faxes, pagers are cutting edge tech.  Well, current, anyway.  Makes me think of those times when an announcement is made before a dance or theater performance to turn off cell phones and pagers, and my son always asks what a pager is.  He tends to forget things that aren't important to him.

Anne's a writer for a New York magazine called Daddy-O.  It's as hipster as it sounds.  Or hipsta, as my daughter might say with disdain.  She is an editor's nightmare, having no particular ability or desire to adhere to deadlines.  She writes very well when she does write, though.  Much of the beginning of the book is laying the groundwork of who Anne is, her relationship with her editor, and her relationship with her best bud, Ricky.  Ricky may be a stand in for Baker.  Not sure.  Other than them both being black men, I don't know that they have anything in common, but at the least Ricky allows Baker to have a voice for a black man in an otherwise white and neurotic world.

In time Anne's sister, Laura, shows up at her door.  Anne's drunk at the time, having unsuccessfully attempted to drink her way to getting a writing assignment done.  Laura's been shot but Anne passes out before learning that, awaking in a hospital with a wound to the back of her head.  That would be from Laura dragging her by her ankles down the street to the hospital.

Laura thinks she's a warrior of some sort from Saturn, which gets us to the title. After the women leave the hospital we have a time where OCD and delusional Laura lives with Anne, vacuuming the apartment to within an inch of its life and constantly rearranging Anne's things or throwing them out.  This, of course, doesn't last.

After a lot of relationship angle to the book it shifts into a road trip.  Laura has gone west to California.  Or Arizona.  Somewhere.  For deus ex machina reasons, and having lost her job with Daddy-O, Anne goes west to find Laura.  There's a whole story line involving some rich guy who loves Laura in a possessive, controlling sense and who is driving all of this activity.  The whys of it really aren't that important.

Baker isn't telling a story so much as he's telling a snippet of a life.  Anne undergoes a transformation in appearance, develops an appreciation of her sister, and generally seems to grow a bit in this book. 

Baker uses his art as an illustration of the narrative and dialog.  He
doesn't present the traditional comics art and word balloons or expository text boxes.  He uses pictures to illustrate the words.  Considerably more pictures than what traditionally illustrates a narrative book, too.  It's a melding of comics and narrative with illustration, meeting somewhere betwixt.

The style of the art is a joy, too.  It's very different from what he used in Nat Turner.  In fact, and not surprisingly, there's very much an '80s feel to the appearance of the characters.  The fashions, the hair, the cars, and the streets all evoke that period, which was contemporary to when it was created.  There's no color in it, either.  It's black and white drawings with a lot of tan used for accents.

If you like stories about the development of people, with a lot of attitude, then pick this up.  You'll enjoy it.

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